Instagram Growth Hacking

Hacking the Algorithm with Instagram Pods, Shoutouts, and Ad Campaigns

Ever since introducing an algorithm software to power it’s feed, Instagram users, especially bloggers and businesses have been doing everything they can to “hack the system”.  While a few good tactics have been discovered and put to the test, one of the best proven ways to beat the algorithm are engagement boosting groups also known as Instagram Pods.

Instagram Pods are private groups of users, influencers, brands, and bloggers who share a similar target audience and the desire to help one another increase engagement and gain followers.  Usually an Instagram Pod consists of between 10 to 15 members who communicate to one another using the apps direct messaging feature. Whenever someone in the group publishes a new post they also share it in the message thread so all members of the Pod can then click the post, like it, and leave authentic comments.  Having that initial boost of engagement sends great signals to Instagram’s algorithm and encourages other followers to interact with the post as well.


Get with a good group and grow, grow, grow


Usually Instagram Pods are the result of organic collaboration and aligned interest but you can also find a good group to get started with by searching through different Instagram themed Facebook Groups.  Make sure the members of the group are posting authentic content and that the group you choose truly aligns with the message you or your brand wants to convey. Not everyone in the Facebook group has to be speaking the same language, but save yourself the trouble of a non effective IP before making the commitment to Instagram collaboration.  

If you want to join a general Facebook group focused on Instagram marketing, we invite you to on board yourself to the Social Sensei Social Media Mastermind Group!

When finding the right Instagram Pod for you be sure to also investigate how many posts per day members of the group are publishing and when.  Following the rules of reciprocity in the Pod may be too overwhelming a commitment if the group is too large, not aligned, or if the members are posting several times a day.  Investing the time and energy to engage with every post in every way for a group with any of those factors present can leave you exhausted and be quite counterproductive in the long run.


Photo by Rawpixel


A look into the world of influencer marketing


The art of influencer marketing is an Instagram strategy revolving around mentions and shoutouts.  How to find and attract the right niche influencer(s) to your brand in a way that really inspires them to amplify your account through their own.  

You may already have an idea who the best influencers in your niche are if you’ve been active within that niche for some time.  Otherwise, determining who most aligns with your brand can take a fair amount of research. Although the process of influencer marketing can be rather lengthy, there are several useful tools that can be helpful when looking for social media influencers you want to start interacting with.

Some of those tools include:


HypeAuditor – Top 1,000 Instagram Influencers


GroupHigh – Monthly Influencers List

Once you have established a good connection with someone that feels right, take the initiative and show their Instagram account some love.  Like and comment on their posts, mention them in yours, and repost some of your favorite content from their stream to yours. If the influencer you’ve connected with is truly about you and your work you can almost guarantee that they will want to return the favor.  Again, praise that law of reciprocity!


Quality promotion through paying for shoutouts


As mentioned earlier, the process of influencer marketing can take quite a bit of time depending on your human resources and social media positioning.  If you’re in a place of financial abundance or have a fair budget allotted to your marketing efforts however, paying for shoutouts from popular influencers may actually be the best way to go.  

There are two main ways to go about buying shoutouts on Instagram.  The first is through a type of influencer marketplace where people can find lists of influencers from a variety of niches willing to sell the promotion power behind their account.  Most of these websites will show you the influencer’s username, the amount of followers they have, and how much it costs for a shoutout from them.

A few paid influencer platforms include:


BuySell Shoutouts



The price for a shoutout ranges widely depending on the influencer and as you can presume, so then does the quality of the shoutout.  Be sure to clarify exactly what, when, and how you would like them to shoutout and direct users to your account. After all, you are paying them a (sometimes significant) portion of your marketing budget to do so.

Maybe your ideal influencer isn’t on any of the marketplace platforms you searched or you prefer a more personal approach to collaboration.  The second way to go about buying shoutouts is to make a private deal with an influencer through direct messaging them on Instagram. Private sales are often less expensive than those you can find on any of the platforms listed above due to the commission they take off the top.  They do however also come with their own set of risks to be aware of.

Private sales mean you likely won’t have any sort of buyers protection ensuring you get the service you’re paying for.  Without a contract and with paid shoutouts teetering on the edge of Instagram’s terms of service, there’s little to no way of taking action against an influencer if they decide to bounce on you.  You also have to create your own offer in a private deal. Without the marketplace setting a price for you it’s up to your best judgement what the best offer for a shoutout looks like. If an influencer typically charges $50 for a shoutout and you offer them $100 there is a slim chance they’re going to tell you.  Or you might offer $100 when the influencer is used to getting paid $500 or more and may not take your offer seriously.

Don’t get too carried away though, money isn’t everything.  It is good to utilize a combination of both organic and paid influencer marketing in your Instagram strategy to maintain the quality following you wish to grow.



Setting up a successful Instagram Ad campaign


Advertising on Instagram grows more and more popular each day, so much so that the  captivating platform is expecting ad revenue to hit well over 10 billion dollars by 2019.  That’s a lot of ads! The visual focus and amount of engagement the app gets makes Instagram the ideal place for businesses and brands to market their products and services.  In fact, many users actually seek out brands that offer exciting visual content on the platform.

Here are five best practices that several brands across the board have found to create the most effective Instagram Ad campaigns:

  1. Design your ads with your overall marketing strategy in mind.  Make sure your ads match your branding and reflect the message(s) you want to convey.  It’s also worth considering how the advertisements you publish to Instagram can add to your other social media campaigns.  Ultimately, the ads you create should support your brand’s mission and include a strong call to action that feels natural and fitting.
  2. Use targeted hashtags and keywords.  As mentioned in our article Targeting Your Audience Through Hashtags, users and brands can include hashtags in their posts that result in them coming up in specific searches.  When you tap a hashtag on Instagram you are directed to a page that contains all posts published using that hashtag so be sure to give good thought to where you want your hashtags to show up.
  3. Utilize images that are central to your Ad campaign.  The most effective Instagram ads rely on one awesome image to capture user’s interest and inspire them to take action.  Photos taken or created specifically for Instagram campaigns are often a good idea seeing as the more your image stands out the more attention it will get.  Close ups, interesting angles, and creative product shots tend to generate a lot of interest which easily translate into leads when done right.
  4. Make good use of your access to social media metrics.  A majority of social media platforms provide sets of data such as which of your posts have performed best and at what time or day your followers most engage with your content.  These metrics also show you how many clicks or shares your page is getting which gives you a good reference for what your ad’s lead conversion rate might look like. Use this data to structure your Ad campaign around the times when people have had a tendency to engage more favorably with your organic posts.
  5. Test your campaign and track results.  Just like any other social media ad campaign, you can learn quite a bit from testing.  Once you’ve established a standard ad, run tests on the standard and see whether timing, the offer presented, your audience, or the image you use raises your amount of engagement and conversion any higher.  A simple way of doing this is by using the A/B method of testing with one ad you know the engagement rate for as your standard and the other ad testing one aspect against it. Use the data you gain to keep redesigning your ad until you can’t get your response to it any higher.

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More About Social Sensei

Having a huge follower base is definitely crucial to get your message out there; in front of your target audience. However, rather than invest in marketing strategies that will have you buying fake followers, why not invest in Social Sensei’s proven and tested Instagram celebrity marketing strategies instead? 

At Social Sensei, we team up with big names in different industries to help you grow your Instagram followers organically. We’ve worked with hundreds of happy clients and have generated thousands of new followers for those who have signed up with us.  

Will celebrity or influencer Instagram marketing get your account banned on Instagram? No. This type of Instagram marketing is a legitimate way for you to grow your Instagram followers organically, so you don’t have to worry about getting shadow banned or action blocked on the platform.

We guarantee account safety, so you never have to worry about your Instagram account being banned or action blocked.  The best part?  Your success is our success, so if you don’t see the numbers you expect for your followers list, we will continue working for you until you do.

Ready to take your Instagram account to the next level?  Work with the experts at Social Sensei to help pair your business with the right growth plan to help you gain real Instagram followers, increase brand exposure, and boost your credibility.  Sign up today to take your account to the next level or click here to schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation with us.

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